Weishuhn on Hunting 39
The flood water on the Chobe River on the plains of the Caprivi Strip in northwestern Namibia had changed quite a few things. Recent rains had flooded the river substantially. The normally tall grassy plain on the south side of the Chobe was still quite “grassy” but was now flooded. To access the Salambali hunting area we had taken a river boat and snaked our way, doing our best to stay within the river channel, our highway to the hunting land and back to our jump off point about a 50 mile or longer round trip. Staying within the channel was imperative but also not very easy. The first night coming back in the dark we had kind of “gotten off path” and ended up taking a while getting back into the channel again and then home. Admittedly this simply added to the adventure!
The high flood water had moved many of the plains game and even the Cape buffalo onto higher ground and that meant most of the animals were on the Botswana side of the border and just beyond reach for us. Mike Runnels’ and my licenses were for Namibia and unfortunately not for north of the Chobe.
We had used the river boat to access higher ground on the south side of the Chobe to glass the broad flooded plains primarily for buffalo. During one of those sessions we spotted about 30 head well over a mile away. Most of them looked like cows, but two looked like they had extremely wide horns. After a quick palaver we decided Mike, our two PHs Nic and Philip, cameraman Blake Barnett, two trackers and I should take a closer look. Heading in their direction we sloshed through knee to thigh deep water taking advantage of every bit of cover. As we approached the herd bedded. They were mostly facing down wind, thankfully too the wind was blowing in our face, from the buffalo to us. Bending as low as we could without “kissing” the water we got to within about 30 to 50 yards of them. There we glassed the two with the widest spreads, which we could now finally see clearly. It quickly became obvious both were old cows. Continuing to glass we found the herd did have one bull, but he was quite young.
Just then all the buffalo stared right at us. At the same time we felt a breeze at our back. Within less than a heart beat all were on their feet and beginning to run. As they ran I thought it a shame the two wide cows weren’t bulls. Their horns were both easily 44 to 46 inches wide.
We returned to our river boat. It wasn’t long after we were back on the river we spotted a large herd of buffalo, on the Botswana side of the Chobe. We stopped counting at 150 and they were nearly all bulls, both those with young soft bosses and those with solid boss horns. Glassing them, even knowing we could not go after any of them as long as they stayed in Botswana, we spotted several gnarly old bulls. Three of them truly stood literally heads and shoulders above the rest. Mike lowered his Zeiss binos and said “That one on the far right, next too the broken tree has got to be at least 40 inches outside!”
From behind me I heard a southern African accent, “Fawty-zix!” I recognized the voice as Philip’s. He went on to explain there were several bulls in the herd we would certainly go after if they were on our side of the river. He further explained one of the ways to estimate the horn spread of a buffalo was to look at the ears. In a normal position, ear tip to ear tip spread measures 32 to 34 inches. He too pointed out several bulls with wide bosses. Those truly caught my attention.
I glassed to the far left of the herd and about a hundred yards to the right stood an old bull. He had reminded me of my first Cape buffalo which I shot on the Save Conservancy in Zimbabwe. He was about 36 or so inches wide, horn tips worn down and more triangular in shape than round. His solid bosses as well as the rest of his horns were worn smooth. Complete with a muddy coat he was truly an old “dugga” (sometimes also spelled “dagga”) boy. The “dugga boy” description usually means muddy, and old! This bull truly fit that description!
We glassed them for quite some time, hoping they would take but a few steps south. Numerous of the bigger bulls fed right on the river’s edge. But no amount of hoping made them more south! Glassing the buffalo we also saw a bunch of elephants as well. Some of the elephants were in family groups complete with extremely small calves. On the other side of the buffalo were four big bulls. Mike watched them with great interest since he hoped to take not only a Cape buffalo but an elephant as well before the hunt was over.
In his southern African Philip told us the smallest of the bulls carried probably 40 pounds of ivory per side, while the biggest was probably 60 to 62 pounds. I noticed Mike smile, “Surely be nice if that biggest bull came across!” For his sake I wished the same thing.
That evening as we were headed back to camp we spotted what looked like a monstrous crocodile, thankfully on the Namibian side of the Chobe. I stayed in the boat while Mike, Philip and Blake put a stalk on the croc. It was great having a ring-side view. It took about 30 minutes for them to take advantage of every bit of even minor cover to close the distance to about about 75 yards. There Mike got into prone, resting the .375 Ruger on his backpack. I watched him peer thru the Zeiss Duralyt scope and when the 300 grain DGX Hornady perfectly hit the crocs small brain, all the croc did was wiggle a couple of times then lay still.
After photos we loaded the croc into our boat. I asked a couple of the trackers if the local villages ate crocs. “No…they have eaten their ancestors! They are not cannibals!” Hard to argue with that logic.
That night back at camp as we sat around the campfire enjoying “sundowners”, Nic and Philip spoke about the next few days…”Tomorrow, we’ll spend some time with the game scouts and ask them to get the local villages to help us find buffalo or two, and over on the other side of the concession we’ll also talk to the villagers about elephants.
They’ll be most helpful. Each little village will be trying to find Cape buffalo as well as an elephant. Which ever village we shoot one the closet to will get the greatest portion of the meat from them. We’ll involve as many as possible.”
Next morning we picked up the game scout, talked to him about involving the villages. He agreed, but with the understanding when we shot a buffalo in his area, he would get first choice of the meat. That sounded more than OK with my PHs and me.
We beached the boat every time we saw any locals and the Game Scout put out the word our asking for their help. We did so toward the end of our hunting area, then turned around and headed back.
We had scarcely gone two miles when we were stopped by a local fisherman who waved us toward the bank. He quickly went on to explain he had just seen two very old buffalo bulls crossing into Namibia just below his camp…. I loaded my Ruger .375 Ruger Guide Gun topped with my Zeiss Duralyt scope with Hornady 300 grain DGX, then made certain I had some DGS where I could get to them if needed…
Later that night my buffalo’s cape was “in the salt” and being prepped to be sent to The Wildlife Gallery.
Sometimes indeed it does take a village…..
Please tune in to watch TRAILING THE HUNTER’S MOON on The Sportsman Channel on Saturday mornings at 9:30, Thursday afternoons at 4:00 and 7:30 am on Friday mornings, eastern times.